By Earl Ofari Hutchinson
“America’s comeback starts right now.”
— Donald Trump in announcing his 2024 presidential campaign
Former President Donald Trump may have downplayed his fraudulent claim that he was cheated out of the White House in 2020. But he never downplayed his intention to run again in 2024.
This is the second in a two-part series assessing the possibility of another Trump presidency. It’s an excerpt from Hutchinson’s new book, “President Trump — Again?” (Amazon).
In formally announcing the launch of his campaign last November, he made it clear that in his estimation he was the only one who could beat President Joe Biden.
He maintained that he could beat him for the same reason he defied all odds and won in 2016. He posed as the classic political outlier, a non-Beltway professional, in sharp contrast to some hackneyed politician. He was unconventional and unorthodox, in fact the anti-politician. That’s why tens of millions bought into his sell job.
He struck the hard but familiar populist tone as the “people’s candidate” when he told the assembled acolytes at Mar-a-Lago in his presidential bid announcement, that the Republican Party had no chance to win back the White House without him.
“This will not be my campaign, this will be our campaign all together,” he said at the time.
But just exactly what kind of 2024 campaign would Trump run? How would it differ from his 2016 shocking presidential triumph and his 2020 not-so-shocking presidential defeat?
And will the threat of conviction and imprisonment hang over his head with any of the multiple criminal cases pending against him?
One thing is certain, with these improbables and intangibles that dangled in the air he will have to do things differently in 2024 to get back to the White House. Trump tipped his hand on one part of his strategy.
That is to stop obsessing publicly that he won the 2020 election but was robbed by a cheating, conniving and rigged election system, by the Democrats.
This tact won’t completely disappear from his rants to his fervent loyalists on the campaign trail. But he won’t make it the prime focus.
There are two new possible campaign wrinkles. The first is to perpetually remind all that the country prospered for a time with near-record low joblessness, robust business activity and no wars. And that he cracked down on illegal immigration.
He’ll claim that the Democrats, if they retain the White House, will reverse all of those alleged gains made during his White House tenure.
The second tweak will be a direct and spruced-up Make America Great Again theme. He’ll knock off the race-baiting rhetoric about Mexican murderers and rapists flooding and imperiling the country that was a staple of his 2016 campaign.
This will be a vital pivot with the real possibility that he could bump up the considerable percent of Hispanic voters that backed him in 2020 despite his immigrant baiting in 2016. That was especially crucial to his election success in Texas.
Trump will also try to make the election a referendum on Biden’s governance. This will be tricky.
Biden consistently received high approval ratings on the likeability factor. That is always a plus for an incumbent. However, his Achilles heel is the consistently low job performance approval ratings he gets from a majority of voters. He gets the dwindling numbers despite record-low joblessness and no serious economic crises on his watch.
This would normally be the surefire passport back to the White House for an incumbent president. Yet the distrust and wariness factor compounded by the never-ending talk of Biden’s age are factors that could hurt.
Trump will have three more ace cards crucial to beat an incumbent president. One will be a united party, even though many Republicans will hold their nose while voting for Trump. The GOP will plow in a king’s ransom in campaign cash, mount an aggressive get-out-the-vote campaign and will continue to ramp up its voter suppression ploys, particularly in the must-win six or seven swing states that decide the White House.
The second ace will be the millions of his rabid die-hard loyalists. They will dash to the polls again for him no matter what happens in his legal battles and the avalanche of personal attacks on his congenital lying, dishonesty and sordid character.
The biggest ace card Trump has ironically will be the very thing that normally would sink any would-be criminally indicted political candidate faster than the Hindenburg. That will be the prospect of conviction on multiple felony charges.
Trump will turn the tables on this. He’ll have endless variations on the campaign trail of the storyline of conspiracy, corruption, victimization, martyrdom and a naked attempt to silence the only man who can upset the Democratic apple cart.
This will serve two purposes. One it will further stiffen the Republican Party to back him because of his popularity, and pander even more to his base which many Republican candidates and incumbents depend on to win or hold onto their office. The utter failure of anti-Trump Republicans, including the other declared presidential candidates, to find any way to derail his campaign while boosting their chances is stark proof of the mesmerizing grip Trump has credibly and effectively on the party even after his multiple indictments.
Earl Ofari Hutchinson is an author and political analyst. He is the host of the weekly Hutchinson Report on KPFK 90.7 FM Los Angeles and the Pacifica Network.